Sometimes an RFP is just an RFP. But in the case of the City of Barrie a closer look appears to be warranted and long overdue.
A recent post on Evelyn Buck’s blog here: http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2015/10/follow-money.html has touched on a sizeable fraud case being investigated by police.
Buck writes that allegations involve a contractor and public resources changing hands without work done in return. To the tune of a million dollars.
Reading the Barrie Examiner’s piece it appears it is far worse. Police are estimating $2 million obtained through fraudulent means from 2011 to 2015:
Halfway through the piece Mayor Jeff Lehman weighs in:
“I’m extremely angry and disappointed, both as mayor of the city and as a taxpayer, because we have worked very hard to build and maintain public trust. It is unfortunate that these alleged actions by one former employee may harm that trust.”
So how hard has Barrie worked to build and maintain public trust if a fraud of this size can be perpetrated by a single employee?
Checks and balances in place to prevent such breach are incorporated into the City of Barrie’s procurement by-law adopted in 2013:http://cftn.ca/sites/default/files/By-law%202013-073%20CONSOLIDATED%20Procurement%20By-law.pdf
So how is it that with such a bylaw in place that a $2 Million fraud occurred nullifying the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Whereas statements laid out on the first page of the bylaw?
Inflated invoices are one thing but the police reported that the contractor would submit duplicated invoices. How was this not caught?
If you scroll down to page 8, point 7.1, we read:
There shall be a Purchasing Review Committee, hereinafter referred to as “PRC”, established in accordance with this By-law and will be responsible for reviewing Bid Irregularities.
The City of Barrie even employs a Manager of Purchasing listed on the sunshine list in 2014 with a salary of $100,723.38
Money well spent.
But the icing on the cake is that the employee that has held that post since 2008 looks like he will have a lot to talk about as he is confirmed as a panelist for the 2015 Procurement Day event this coming Monday:
The topic of the session he is to speak at: Risk Assessment
Just to recap here: the city of Barrie is the victim of a fraud extending over 4 years and estimated at $2 Million. This occurring before, during and after implementation of a bylaw in 2013 complete with staff and committee oversight.
If the City of Barrie worked as hard as they said they did to build and maintain public trust in their own financial controls they wouldn’t find themselves having to turn to independent auditors to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
Both as mayor of the city and as a taxpayer Jeff Lehman should be extremely angry and disappointed that the public’s trust has been harmed, but chalking up to the systematic failure to the actions one former employee only weakens the public’s trust even further.
If you want to regain said trust you need to own your mistakes, and your role in them.
After a $2 Million mistake like this one methinks anything the City of Barie’s Manager of Purchasing had to say on the topic of risk assessment would be taken with a grain of salt.